Even though it is only January, I am already in the planning stages for the 2011-2012 school year. In addition to next year being dd's first official year of high school, many online courses are already registering. It puts the pressure on this homeschooling mama to make sure my act is together and to plan appropriately.
One area that I've been heavily considering is AP (Advanced Placement) courses. If you aren't familiar with AP course, visit the College Board website to learn more. You can also read my previous post titled AP Exams and Courses for Homeschoolers.
One of the criticisms of some AP courses is that the huge focus on teaching for the test creates an environment where students more or less are required to just cram in information, rather than be able to explore, take rabbit trails, or go in-depth. Others have warned me that AP courses are full of busywork and don't embrace true learning. I'm sure it depends on the teacher, but I have noted the warnings as I look at our AP options.
One course I was considering was AP Biology. Dd has already had high school level Biology and Marine Biology, and is currently enrolled in Chemistry. However, her math skills do not meet the prerequisite for Physics, a common course to follow Chemistry. In our case, AP Biology made sense as the next step, except that it is one of the most rigorous AP courses/exams available. Some traditional schools offer this course as a 2-hour daily course, plus an hour weekly lab, just to cover all the material required. In order to take this course, dd would have to compromise elsewhere to fit it in her schedule. It was still in the running, but I wasn't exactly happy with what it would do to her schedule.
My decision just became easier. The New York Times recently ran an article about upcoming changes on AP exams, AP Biology included, as soon as the 2012-2013 school year. The changes will place more of a focus on critical thinking skills, rather than information volume.
Rethinking Advanced Placement
Of the current 56 chapters of a 1400+ page text, as many as 20 chapters (all or part) will no longer be needed for the new version of the exam. Other changes are in store, including higher level math concepts and more free response questions.
This was very timely information for me as I make decisions next year. I definitely plan to wait until the changes are in effect, if dd even takes it at all. In our case, time is on our side and there is no need to take AP Biology next year.
We are currently looking at AP Government and AP English as options. AP Government is considered one of the easier AP exams. Dd will need a civics credit to graduate, so I figure it might as well be AP. Even though it isn't regarded as one of the more rigorous AP courses, the AP will look better on her transcript than a regular or honors government course. The AP English is listed in the article as one of the courses that won't have revisions until much later and waiting for those changes really isn't beneficial in our case, or perhaps not even possible, since they may take place after dd's graduation).
If you are considering AP courses for your homeschooler next year, definitely take note of the upcoming changes when making your decision. It sure saved me some time in the decision-making process.